by Geoff Rand

This week's blog is a rerun of an article that appeared last year in our old printed newsletter.  I'm sitting here looking at my rough hands and calluses from the past week and thought it was a fitting reminder of the maintenance we all should be doing.


We’ve all seen or experienced, ahem, first hand, what it’s like to tear open a hand during a WOD.  Some consider bloody hands a CrossFit badge of honor, but really it is more like a billboard advertising that you have poor technique or didn’t take the time to care for your hands.  Think about it.  Sure you may have ripped a hand while crushing that WOD.  But now what?  That injured hand is going to limit everything you do, in and out of the Box, until it heals.  Not so heroic now, is it?

How it Happens

Tears are caused when your calluses have raised and/or uneven surfaces that rub and catch on the bar you are using.  These raised surfaces eventually will blister and then tear away from your palm, often taking live skin with them.

Hand Maintenance

You prevent tears by shaving or sanding down the rough surfaces.  You want the calluses to be tough and thick, but smooth.  If you can pinch a raised edge of the callus, or catch an edge with your fingernail, it needs to be smoothed down.

You can smooth the calluses by sanding them down with a Dremel tool or pumice stone.  If using a Dremel, use a fine grit sanding wheel, and for sanitary reasons, don’t share sanding wheels with others.  Set the Dremel on a low setting and gently grind them down, keeping the wheel moving over all the calluses to avoid heat build up.  Don’t overdo it and check your progress frequently until you get the technique down.  Coach Dave May prefers this method and can tell you all about it if you need help.

You can also shave the calluses down with a disposable razor or callus scraper (available in the foot care section of drug stores).  It is best to use these tools before you shower when your hands are dry.  Don’t apply too much pressure and be careful not to shave too deep.  Again, take it easy until you learn how much is too much.  Arch your fingers backwards when you use the scraper to really get your palm to push those calluses out.  Then, using short strokes, gently scrape away the skin, starting at the base of the fingers.  It’s not rocket science, but you might want to check out the YouTube video: What To Do About Calluses, or ask Coach Amanda if you are new to callus scraping.

Just like you should be doing mobility and rolling out sore muscles, you should be smoothing your calluses periodically throughout the week.

Don’t forget to keep your hands moisturized.  Remember, soap, chalk, and Liquid Grip, dry your hands out, so apply moisturizer as needed.  Coach Amanda uses Aquaphor nightly.  My favorite is O'Keeffe's Working Hands, and guys, you can pick it up at Home Depot.  Bonus.


Proper Grip

Preventing tears also means gripping the bar properly.  When working with a barbell or pull-up bar, many people are inclined to grip the bar across the middle of their palms. This, unfortunately, squishes the fleshy pad below the base of your fingers against the bar, causing discomfort, added friction, blisters, and worse.  A better way to go is to grip the barbell across the base of your fingers.  This grip will require more strength in your hands, fingers, and forearms, but you’ve read the Get a Grip article and are working on turning apples into applesauce with your hands, right?  Good.

Hand maintenance and proper grip will go a long way towards preventing tears, but tears may still happen.  In part two of this article, we will look at what to do if you do happen to tear your hands.

By Geoff Rand